Thursday, August 11, 2011

Shadal series #4 - disapproving of R. Samson Raphael Hirsch's predilection for German.

One the things which really annoyed Shadal was German. He didn't like it, he claimed that he couldn't read the Blackletter type well, he often said that he never read a complete German book until 1829, and although he wrote hundreds of letters in Italian, French and even Latin, when a Jew sent him a letter in German, he invariably answered in Hebrew. Although he did write articles for publication in German, his attitude was generally negative toward that language, corresponding to his perception that German Jews were becoming too assimilated and too cavalier toward Hebrew (shared by many non-German Jews of a traditionalist orientation all over Europe; indeed, in eastern Europe a modern Jew was often called a דייטשער, that is, a German, in Yiddish; and, ironically, in German).

Having recently posted about Shadal's reception of Hirsch's 19 Letters (written in German; Shadal was impressed by it and expressed love for its author, who was then unknown to him), here is an interesting little poem that he wrote, apparently in response to a letter he received from Rabbi Hirsch written in . . . German.

(Chinor Nahim v.2 pg. 295. Padua 1879.)

Loose translation (forgive me):
What's up with the author of the Letters Ten-Plus-Nine?
Has he switched and become Geiger or Holdheim?
For he wrote to Shadal in the language of Germania,
Not in the language of Jerusalem and Judea.
At the end of the book (compiled by his son Isaia) is an index stating where and if the poems in this collection were written or printed. This one? It was a ditty included in an 1847 letter to Geiger! Unfortunately the letter appears neither in Iggerot Shadal or Epistolario, so I don't know what the rest of the letter was about.